The MIT Interview: What It’s Like + My Experience

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Many private, competitive schools give applicants the ability to interview. MIT sends out members of the MIT Educational Council, a group of 5000 previous MIT graduates, to interview prospective students each application cycle. MIT, just like other schools that interview, tries to ensure that every applicant has a chance to interview. Pre-COVID, the chance of interviewing depended heavily on the number of available alumni in the applicant’s area; now, however, this is less of a factor due to the increased use of virtual platforms. While interviewing with alumni might seem advantageous, MIT stresses that candidates who are not able to receive an interview invite are not at a disadvantage. 

 

If you are granted the opportunity to interview with alumni, you definitely should take it! Not only are alumni interviews a great way for you to add your personality to the application process, but it is also a great way to get school-specific questions answered and hear about the experiences from a previous Engineer. 

 

MIT interviews are casual conversations (which means you do not have to dress formally) that typically last an hour. In-person interviews may be conducted near you, like at a coffee shop, or held virtually via zoom. I interviewed with MIT during my application cycle back in 2016. While I was not ultimately accepted to be an Engineer, going through the interview process was eye-opening to understand the day-to-day life of a student at MIT .

 

How is Covid-19 Impacting MIT College Interviews?

 

With COVID, the 2020-2021 interview process has been completely virtual, however, the future of interviews has not been decided yet. As you apply to MIT, you will either hear more about the future direction of interviews through email or on the official MIT admissions website. Be sure to seek out additional insight on how to ace a virtual interview!

 

Setting Up Your MIT College Interview

 

After you have submitted your application, be sure to look out for an email from a member of the MIT Educational Council. Those who apply early action will be reached out in November while those who applied regular action will be reached out in January. Once you receive an email, you and the alumni can decide on when you will have your interview and whether or not it will be in person or over the phone/Zoom. 

 

In 2016, I applied for early action and was reached out by email at the end of November by an alumnus in the Portland area. After some emails back and forth, we agreed to meet up at a Starbucks near both of our homes to have my interview. 

 

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What the MIT College Interview is Like

 

Like I mentioned, my MIT interview was at a Starbucks. I remember getting there super early so that I wouldn’t accidentally miss the interview, and I also dressed up formally because I wanted to make a good impression. I later realized that the latter decision was unnecessary, as my interviewer showed up in jeans and a casual jacket. The interview began with quick introductions followed by questions about my extracurricular activities and hobbies. The next question I remember getting asked was “Why MIT?” and specifically “Why Biological Engineering?”. With these questions, I was able to connect my extracurricular involvement at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, which I had described to her earlier in the interview, as the primary catalyst of my interest in becoming a biological engineer.

 

While I anticipated the classic interview questions that were catered to understanding me as a thinker and why I was looking to study at MIT, some of the other questions struck me by surprise. I was asked about my favorite book and about the best class I took in high school. I answered with “the Harry Potter series but if I had to pick one, I would have to pick ‘Chamber of Secrets” and “Orchestra because it is the one class where I am able to bring out my creative, thoughtful side.” Whether or not the interviewer can connect to the answers you give, the interviewer will still be able to connect with your passion, and you may even be able to continue a conversation if something strikes their interest

 

The interviewer continued on to ask some MIT-related questions, such as if I had ever visited the campus (which I had). While this question is usually asked to gain insight as to your interest in the school, interviewers understand that it is not always feasible to visit the campus before applying (especially if you do not live close by). You can always mention that you have taken plenty of virtual tours, watched YouTube videos from current MIT students showing off their campus/dorm life, and even read up on different aspects of campus life. Regardless of whether or not you get an interview from a school, I highly recommend doing this so that you can see whether or not you think the school is a good fit for you! While a campus might look nice, the campus culture may not fit with your personality. 

 

At the very end, my interviewer asked if I had any questions for them. You should never say no to this question. Saying no makes it seem as if you did not give much thought to this interview before coming in. Some questions you may want to ask are:

 

  • “What was your favorite part of attending MIT?”
  • “What are some traditions that freshmen participate in?”
  • “What was your favorite class at MIT? Least favorite?”
  • “What is the enrollment process like at MIT for classes? Does everyone get the class they want every semester?”

 

Make sure you come prepared with more types of questions to ask your interviewer!

 

Tips for the MIT College Interview

 

Do not stress about your interview for MIT. Remember, the interview is a way for alumni to give positive feedback on you as an applicant to the admissions office. Be prepared with some answers to general questions you may be asked about MIT. Also, it doesn’t hurt to come in prepared knowing some information about MIT: whether it be about the school of engineering, dorm life, campus life, extracurriculars, traditions. You want to seem passionate about the school you are applying to because I can guarantee that the alumni are very passionate about MIT!

 

Another thing to remember is that this is a casual conversation. While it may seem like the interviewer is directing a lot of questions at you, you can always direct some questions back at them. For example, if they ask you why you are interested in MIT, you can always answer their question and then ask “Why did you choose to attend MIT?” This can give you further insight into the experiences you may have if you attend the school. And make sure to be sincere in your answers! You don’t have to seem like the smartest, most scientific person in the room. You don’t have to throw out technical terms or only focus on your academic achievements—those are all already outlined in your application! The interview is meant to illuminate additional aspects of your personality that are not seen in your written application. 

 

And be on time! It’s okay if you end up showing up really early—buy some coffee and relax (or maybe buy some herbal tea if coffee is going to give you the caffeine jitters!). Remember that the interviewer is taking time out of their day to talk to you about a school they love. First impressions in this type of environment are crucial.

 

But most importantly, make sure to take a deep breath before your interview. Don’t dwell over your performance after the interview and don’t second guess yourself during the interview—in the end, everything will work out and you will attend the college that is the best fit for you!

 

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Short Bio
My name is Thamira Skandakumar and I am from Vancouver, Washington. I am a current fourth year at UCLA studying Bioengineering with a minor in Electrical Engineering. In the summer, I will be moving out to San Diego to work at Medtronic in their Ventilator division.

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